Members number a mere 997, with 552 males and 445 females
Siliguri, 21 February: Primitive trait, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact and backwardness, the Dhimals have it all.
The state government is now looking into whether it should recommend Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the community that is on the verge of extinction.
Members of the Dhimal community that is the fast vanishing inhabits of the Terai region under Naxalbari block near Indo-Nepal border, now number a mere 997, with 552 males and 445 females. In its report on the tribe, the Cultural Research Institute (CRI) has recommended ST status for the community that has been running from pillar to post to get such recognition since the 1980s.
Sources at the state backward classes welfare department said the department had asked CRI in August last to conduct a detailed study to ascertain whether the community deserves ST status. CRI is supposed to have submitted its report this month.
“The report is now pending with the state cabinet,” said a highly-placed source at the state backward classes welfare department.
According to sources, if the cabinet recommends the ST status, the department will send the CRI report to the Registrar General of India and if it gets approval there, it will be sent to the National Commission for Backward Classes and the ministry of Tribal Affairs.
CRI conducted the recent survey on five basic general issues ~ primitive trait, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact and backwardness. In 2008 too, CRI had submitted a report on the endangered community to the state’s backward classes welfare department, recommending ST status for the community.
The secretary of the Dhimal Community Existence Preservation and Welfare Society,Garjan Mallik, said they wanted the government to include them in the most primitive tribe list so that they can improve their socio-economic and educational status. According to him, despite their several memorandums submitted to the departments concerned of both the state and the central governments, their demand for ST status had not been met.
“We have traditionally lived off the land, but now it has become important for us to integrate with the modern society to save our tribe from extinction,” said Mr Mallik, who is the first graduate from the Dhimal community.
Mr Mallik said he had met the state backward classes welfare department minister, Upen Biswas, in Kolkata on 6 February. “The minister told us that our tribe matches all the criteria for getting ST status and that he would look into the matter. I also met the chief minister, Miss Mamata Banerjee, in Mirik on 21 January and requested her to look into our demand,” he said.
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